The time for innovation is now!

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The only constant in life is change.” And if he were to update this based on current circumstances, he would’ve added the word “innovation.” Change, simply defined, is the act to be different. But innovation is bringing that act one notch higher, toward a better form, toward a better place.

In tech-driven times, we always hear about innovation. “Innovate, or perish” is the mantra of so many companies who have survived changes brought about by life-altering circumstances. In our history, these events are plenty — introduction of the computer, arrival of the hand-held gadgets, connection to the internet, to the emergence of artificial intelligence. Amid all these, what made huge corporations or small businesses survive and thrive is innovation. Without it, they cease to exist as the conditions are different from what they were accustomed with before.

Innovation, however, need not be in the realm of businesses alone. It is high time for the Philippines to develop an “innovation ecosystem,” which is currently championed by National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General and Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan.

Balisacan made this remark during the National Innovation Council’s (NIC) first meeting under the Marcos administration last Feb. 21, 2023. Unknown to most Filipinos, there is an NIC, which is composed of 25 members, with the President as chairperson and the NEDA director general as vice chairperson. The rest are composed of 16 ex-officio members and seven members from the private sector.

Formed in 2019 under the Duterte administration, the NIC is “tasked to develop the country’s innovation goals, priorities, and long-term national strategies.” It is quite a surprise, or puzzling maybe, that its first meeting under the new administration is only the NIC’s fourth meeting since its creation (disrupted maybe by the pandemic). Now, wouldn’t it be more “fruitful” to have more meetings on innovations in the coming months?

All is not late, hopefully, as the NIC’s meeting was presided over by the President, who concurred with the important role of innovation to ensure economic growth, competitiveness, and resilience amid worldwide upheavals.

Balisacan said that one of our major challenges as a country is that “we have not paid much attention to innovation” and that the Philippines lags behind its neighbors when it comes to innovation.

To address this challenge, Balisacan said: “What we want to happen is that we have an ecosystem that encourages, promotes… and helps them locate funds, access to credit… so that good ideas can be supported.” There is an Innovation Fund, which is a revolving fund aimed to support enterprises that are developing innovative solutions.

The NIC also presented to the President the important features of RA No. 11293 or the “Philippine Innovation Act” and updates on the formulation of the National Innovation Agenda and Strategy Document (NIASD). The NIASD “outlines the country’s 10-year vision and long-term goals for innovation and serves as a detailed roadmap toward improving innovation governance.”

“These documents aim at enabling a strong innovation governance to drive the innovation ecosystem toward (our) goals of a smart and innovative Philippines that is productive, resilient, and sustainable, as well as inclusive,” Balisacan said.

With this promising start, may the path to embrace innovation be smooth and steady. As a country, we have to innovate, before it’s too late! Otherwise, we suffer the disgraceful consequence of irrelevance on the world stage.

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